Change for the Better

Shutterstock / The Toidi
Shutterstock / The Toidi

Every National Electrical Code cycle, from the advent of ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection in Section 680-4 in the 1968 NEC , has featured changes in the installation and application of GFCIs. The first GFCI requirements involved protection of swimming pool lights and included the light junction box located under the diving board. Personnel protection of circuits, based on sensing extremely low current that is not confined within the insulated grounded and ungrounded conductors, has expanded greatly in the past half-century. Requiring GFCI protection for dryer and range receptacles may seem unnecessary; however, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported a major decrease in electrocutions in the United States since GFCIs were introduced. Here are the changes for the 2020 NEC .

There were two new informational notes added to the base rule in 210.8 for GFCI devices. New Informational Note No. 3 sends the user to new 555.9 for GFCI protection of personnel for outlets not exceeding 240 volts (V) that supply a boat hoist installed at docking facilities with dwelling units. This rule was previously located in 210.8(C) and then relocated to Article 555 covering marinas, boatyards, commercial and noncommercial docking facilities with the informational note inserted in 210.8 to flag the relocation of the requirement for boat hoists at residential docks. Informational Note No. 4 was added to remind the user there are additional GFCI requirements in chapters 4, 5 and 6.

The text in the second paragraph of 210.8 was changed as follows: “For the purposes of this section, when determining the distance from receptacles, the distance shall be measured as the shortest path the supply cord of an appliance connected to the receptacle would follow without piercing a floor, wall, ceiling, or fixed barrier, or the shortest path without passing through a door, doorway, or window.”

This change clarifies that a kitchen cabinet door is not intended to eliminate GFCI protection. With this change, receptacles installed on the other side of an open doorway but within 6 feet of a sink must be GFCI-protected.

The first paragraph in 210.8(A), dealing with dwelling-unit GFCI requirements, was changed to require “all 125-volt through 250-volt receptacles installed in the locations specified in 210.8(A)(1) through 210.8(A)(11) and supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated 150-volts or less to ground shall have GFCI protection for personnel.”

This change expands the requirement from 15- and 20-ampere (A) 125V receptacles installed in accordance with 210.8(A) to all receptacles rated 125V through 250V installed in accordance with 210.8(A) supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated at 150V or less to ground. This change would apply to 30A, 240V (at 120V to ground) dryer receptacles and the same for 50A, 240V range receptacles where GFCI protection would be required for these outlets.

A change occurred for the text and the exception covering GFCI protection in basements in 210.8(A)(5). The former text in 2017 NEC and previous cycles required all 125V, single-phase, 15A and 20A receptacles in unfinished portions or areas of the basement not intended as habitable rooms. The new text in 210.8(A)(5) in the 2020 NEC covers all receptacles rated 125V through 250V installed in accordance with 210.8(A) supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated at 150V or less to ground in finished or unfinished basements. The text in the existing exception in 210.8(A)(5), which deals with the exemption of GFCI protection for receptacles supplying power to a permanently installed fire or burglar alarm systems, has not changed, but it now applies to finished or unfinished basements in a dwelling unit.

A new exception has been added and located after 210.8(A)(10). This exception applies to 210.8(A)(1) through (A)(3) for bathrooms, garages, accessory buildings and outdoors. It also applies to 210.8(A)(5) through (A)(8) and (A)(10) for basements, kitchens, sinks, boathouses and laundry areas. This exception permits installations without GFCI protection for “listed locking support and mounting receptacles utilized in combination with compatible attachment fittings installed for the purpose of serving a ceiling luminaire or ceiling fan.”

However, “if a general-purpose convenience receptacle is integral to the ceiling luminaire or ceiling fan, then GFCI protection of the receptacle or receptacles is required.” This exception applies to types of receptacles inserted into the 2017 NEC to cover a new type of receptacle for attaching electrical apparatus using a different type of receptacle than the common one, which is based on the definition in Article 100. This new receptacle permits an installer to connect luminaires and ceiling fans without installing a canopy. Finally, a new 210.8(A)(11) has been added to require GFCI protection for indoor damp and wet locations in dwelling units.

About the Author

Mark C. Ode

Fire/Life Safety, Residential and Code Contributor

Mark C. Ode is a lead engineering associate for Energy & Power Technologies at Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and can be reached at 919.949.2576 and Mark.C.Ode@ul.com.

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